As I sit at my computer this morning thinking about what to write, one word keeps coming to mind: THANKFUL. It has been one month since I stood at the pulpit for the first time as your minister, and I am thankful for this church.

I am thankful that a couple months ago a group of you spent hours preparing a house for our family. Cabinets were cleaned, walls were painted and repairs were made. I am thankful that when that old house has problems, and I send a text to Butch; those problems are taken care of. And Butch is probably thankful that those texts are coming less frequently. J  I am thankful that when I walk into our pantry to see what there is to eat, I see shelves that are full of the things we were pounded with a few weeks ago.

I am thankful each week when I meet with our elders to be reminded that we have God honoring leaders who are shepherding this church. I am thankful to see the ways that our deacons are serving this church. I am thankful each day for the work that David and John are doing with our campus and youth ministries and other work in the church that is outside their specific roles. I am thankful for what Paula and Dana do in the office to make everyone else’s efforts go further and more smoothly.

I am thankful to have attended Bible classes at Southwest taught by five different people and to have been blessed by what each of those teachers had prepared. I am thankful to see how Jean, Juanita and Bobbye serve the people at Brookdale each week. I am thankful for the work that is done each month for our community at the Yellow House and for how well the crews there work together. I am thankful that whenever a need arises there are people here who rise to the occasion.

I am thankful that as we looked at our budget recently we saw so many good things that are being done in the kingdom because of your generosity. I am thankful for the worship we share together each week. I am thankful for the songs we sing, the prayers we pray and the time we spend remembering the sacrifice Jesus made. I am thankful for the encouragement you give and the way you have welcomed our family into the family at Southwest. I am thankful for this church and the community we now call home.

I could go on and on, but most of all I am thankful for the God we serve and His love for us. Let’s daily show those around us how thankful we are for Him. 

– Brian

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Taste and See

Last Friday morning I woke up to see that I had missed a call just after 5:00 a.m. Shortly after noticing that I received a second call. Both calls were from old friends I had not seen in several years. Those kinds of early morning calls do not usually bring news you want to hear, and this one was no different. My youth minister and friend, Ed McGaughy, had passed away. After our worship service Sunday evening, I drove to Mobile, Alabama for his memorial service. I hope you will be encouraged by learning a little more about him.

I first met Ed when I was a teenager. I could not tell you exactly where we first connected, because he was involved in so many things that I was a part of. Before he was in youth ministry, Ed and his brother, David, helped out with our high school band. Ed and his wife, Cathy, directed the Vacation Bible School at one of the local churches. At a church of 275 members, they grew the VBS attendance to over 600 kids. When I was in high school, Ed managed a patio furniture and mattress store where one of my good friends was the delivery guy. I would spend many afternoons and summers at the store, helping out with deliveries, playing cards and mostly…laughing. No matter the setting, Ed was always the loudest guy in the room, and he had a laugh that was infectious. Since hearing of his death last week, I’ve thought several times about Ed’s laugh.

While he ran the patio furniture store, Ed also became the part-time youth minster at the church I attended. For the last two years of high school I spent most of my Sunday evenings after worship at Ed and Cathy’s house. We ate, sang, talked about God and life, played cards and did a whole lot of laughing. He later went into youth ministry full time and blessed more teens in the same way. At his memorial service on Monday, I heard so many stories from people who had that same experience. All of us had a few more shared thoughts.

Ed loved God. So many conversations with Ed would come back to how great our God is and how He works in our lives. Ed loved his kids. He had four sons. When he and Cathy opened their home to group after group of teenagers on Sunday evenings, he would disappear from the card game, discussion or movie for a few minutes. We soon realized he was with his kids praying with them and getting them ready for bed. He never missed out on that. Ed loved his wife. Early in marriage, he and Cathy had a severe car accident where she nearly died and had a lengthy recovery process. He was by her side every step of the way. Later in life when Ed’s health began to decline, she was there for him. In the years between they modeled a Christian marriage to all of us who knew them. Most of all they helped us see God more clearly.

Ed’s favorite verse, Psalm 34:8, was shared at the service: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” He lived a life that taught us what that looks like. I was reminded this week how each of us can have the influence to show others that we believe the Lord is good. Let’s all take refuge in Him, so the world around us can see Him more clearly.
– Brian

Dangerous Unselfishness

Last Monday, our nation took time to recognize the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For 13 years, I lived 150 miles from where he marched in Selma and for the next 17 years I lived 100 miles from where he was killed in Memphis. Regardless of what people may think about the man, his methods or his politics, for many he symbolizes the desire for unity, service and concern for our fellow man. You have probably heard his “I Have a Dream” speech. Below is a section of another speech he gave the day before his assassination.

“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base. Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the ‘I’ into the ‘thou,’ and to be concerned about his brother.”

That kind of concern for brothers is something the young church at the end of Acts 2 places a lot of importance on. They learned together. They prayed together. They shared what they had. They took care of one another’s needs. Their number grew as a result.

So many of the things that God asks of us involve how we treat each other. “Honor your father and mother. Turn the other cheek. Forgive. Value others above yourselves. Love your neighbor.”

To be followers of Christ we have to see every person we encounter as a valuable creation of the Father. Each person is someone that He wants to bring closer to Him. It is up to us to show them His love. It’s not always easy, and it might be a little uncomfortable. Maybe we all should develop that same kind of dangerous unselfishness that Dr. King spoke about.
– Brian